North Shore Line cars 155, 190, and 154 are stopped by the historic Kenilworth fountain on July 24, 1955. The occasion was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip just prior to the abandonment of the Shore Line Route. A similar picture, taken by Ray DeGroote, is in my book The North Shore Line.
While this is our first new post in nearly three months, we have been hard at work this entire time. Since January 21st we took delivery on our new book The North Shore Line (see below), and shipped out over 200 copies to our purchasers and contributors. The book has been very well received by our readers.
We also gave a presentation on March 8th at the Schaumburg Township Public Library for our 2021 book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. This was a “hybrid” (in-person and on Zoom) program, but it was not recorded.
FYI, I will be giving a presentation on Monday, April 17th at the Libertyville Historical Society for my new book The North Shore Line. This is a “hybrid” program (both in person and on Zoom). More information here.
Three days later, on April 20th, I have another presentation scheduled (in Lake Forest) at the History Center Lake Forest-Lake Bluff. This one is in-person only. More information here.
Meanwhile, we have already begun doing research on our next book, which will be about the Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban. This is a process that we expect will take the rest of this year. More than $2500 has been spent collecting materials for possible use.
Research does take both time and money, and the expenses are ongoing. If you support our efforts, we hope that you will consider making a donation. There are links to do just that in this post. Any and all contributions are very much appreciated, and we are very thankful for all the help we get from our readers. We can’t do it without you.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
The Lake Street “L” in Transition
We recently scanned several original slides taken by the late William C. Hoffman, documenting the transition made by the Lake Street “L”. For more than 60 years, the line ran at ground level west of Laramie Avenue (5200 West). On October 28, 1962, it switched to a new alignment on the adjacent Chicago and North Western embankment, where it has remained for more than 60 years.
We previously ran some other pictures showing this transition in our post Elevation (December 5, 2022).
This September 1959 view looks west along South Boulevard in Oak Park, and shows the Marion Street station on the Lake Street “L”, when it still ran at ground level west of Laramie Avenue. The “L” was relocated to the adjacent Chicago and North Western embankment in October 1962, and the buildings to the left are gone. The side street (Maple Avenue) shown in the picture has been truncated, and a large high-rise residential building occupies this space now.
The same location today.
William C. Hoffman took this picture from the back end of an “L” train on June 28, 1962 just west of the Laramie station. This offers a good view of the construction work underway at left, preparing the new embankment line which opened on October 28th. He referred to this as the “Laramie Avenue interchange.”
Here, we are looking east toward the Laramie Avenue station on the Lake Street “L” on June 28, 1962. According to photographer William C. Hoffman, the westbound track to the new embankment alignment was tied in on this date, and the first cars ran there.
A CTA diesel crane and work gondola are on the new connecting track leading to the Chicago and North Western embankment on August 22, 1962. At this time, there was a connection between the “L” and the new alignment via the westbound track, but not the eastbound one. For a time, it was necessary to have connections leading to both the ground-level trackage as well as the embankment, until service was switched over on October 28th. I am not sure when the new connection was made with the eastbound track. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
This photo by the late William C. Hoffman was taken on October 28, 1962 at the Central Avenue station on the Lake Street “L”, and shows how the transition was made from the ground level operation to the new alignment on the C&NW embankment. Unlike the situation in 1958, when the new Congress rapid transit line and the old Garfield Park “L” both ran on the same day, that was not possible here, due to the tight clearances at the station entrances. The new entrances could not be finished until the old line was torn out. So on October 28, 1962, which was a Sunday, the ceremonies dedicating the new 2.5 mile “L” realignment were held in the morning, and then, until 6 pm, trains only ran as far as Laramie Avenue, where the steel “L” structure ended. While workers put wooden platforms over the old tracks, riders west of Laramie had to take shuttle buses on Lake Street, as the signs here indicate. Passengers still had to enter via the old station entrances for a time.
A 6-car eastbound Lake Street “L” test train is on the new embankment on October 28, 1962, shortly before the new service began at 6 pm. Although the photographer did not indicate which station this was, I believe it is Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking east along the new Lake Street “L” embankment alignment at Marion Street on October 28, 1962, shortly before service began. A work train heads east. Photographer William C. Hoffman accessed this area via the Chicago and North Western Oak Park commuter train station, as the “L” station wasn’t yet open until 6 pm.
A 6-car train of CTA 4000-series “L” cars is heading eastbound near Ridgeland Avenue on the new embankment trackage on October 28, 1962, as the ground-level operation has finally been replaced. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A westbound train of 4000s is on the new Lake Street “L” embankment alignment on November 11, 1962. A track welder’s car is on the eastbound track. The photographer notes, “Bub Lindgren on “L” train.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking east along the old ground-level Lake Street “L” right-of-way at Menard Avenue on November 11, 1962. An eastbound two-car “L” train is on the new alignment on the embankment. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A 4000-series “L” train is stopped at the Harlem and Lake station on November 11, 1962. Note how there are some transparent portions of the station canopy, to let more light in. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking west/northwest at Lake and Central on November 11, 1962. Riders still entered the station via a temporary connection to the old ground-level station. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A westbound Lake Street “L” train has just left the Laramie Avenue station on November 11, 1962. This photo gives a good view of how the tracks were shifted over to connect with the nearby embankment. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking east/northeast along Lake Street (now Corcoran Place) at Austin Boulevard on August 12, 1963. The new station entrance has been finished. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view east along Mansfield Avenue at Lake Street on August 12, 1963. The old ground level tracks and ties have been removed, while a two-car train of 4000s is on the new embankment alignment. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view east at Lake and Parkside, showing the auxiliary entrance to the new Central Avenue “L” station on August 12, 1963. By now, the old ground-level tracks have been removed, except at street crossings. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
An eastbound two-car Lake Street “L” train heads east on November 24, 1963, after having left the terminal at Harlem Avenue. South Boulevard has been resurfaced, and parking spaces (with meters) added where the tracks used to be. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A southbound Western Avenue PCC car prepares to cross the Garfield Park “L” temporary trackage on September 24, 1953. The view looks west. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Several Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban cars are visible at the entrance to the Wells Street “L” Terminal on April 6, 1953. The substation under the “L” is still there today and powers the Loop “L”. This was the very first color slide my friend Ray DeGroote took (with an Argus C3 camera) on April 6, 1953. He was standing on the platform of the old Franklin Street “L” station.
This is how the northwest corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue looked in Manhattan on August 5, 1937. The Third Avenue El was abandoned in 1955 without replacement subway service. In the 68 years since, only a small portion of the Second Avenue Subway has been built.
Photographer Arthur H. Peterson captured this image of a southbound Evanston Express “L” train, including car 4409, near the Berwyn Avenue station on November 25, 1973. The 4000s were ending their more than 50 years of passenger service on the “L”. Miles Beitler writes: “There is a third rail in photo aae109a, so why would the trolley pole be raised? The only reason I can think of is that it’s a fantrip, and the train might be on the gauntlet track (to access Buena Yard), but that is not apparent in the photo. Also, 4000s in Evanston Express service were usually at least four cars long.” November 25, 1973 was a Sunday, and since the Evanston Express only runs on weekdays (then and now), this must be a fantrip. But there were two-car Evanston Express trains in mid-day service, when the EE ran until almost noon (which it no longer does). I rode on one myself. As for the overhead wire, they may have simply preferred operating the fantrip train using the overhead, as it was about to be eliminated in Evanston, and would no longer be needed south of Howard (as the last CTA freight train had operated several months prior). It’s not entirely clear to me exactly when there was third rail available on the entire length of track 1, but the overhead was officially taken out of service in 1975. This left the Skokie Swift as the only CTA that continued to use any overhead wire, and even that was eliminated in the early 2000s.
Although partially double exposed, this rare image shows Hammond Whiting and East Chicago car 79 in service and in color. These streetcars were nearly identical to the Chicago Pullmans. Chicago Surface Lines streetcars shared trackage with these cars, which also went into Chicago as far as 63rd Street until 1940. That is the latest date when this Kodachrome slide could have been taken. Andre Kristopans: “Calumet 79 is NB on Ewing at 95th.”
Chicago Aurora and Elgin cars 455 ad 460 are looping at the DesPlaines Avenue Terminal in Forest Park on July 23, 1955. This view looks east.
Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed car 58 is at Eaton on October 20, 1940 on a fantrip.
Indiana Railroad car 50 is in Fort Wayne on April 16, 1939.
Indiana Railroad car 71 is in New Castle. (Charles Able Photo)
Milwaukee Electric interurban car 1116, a West Junction car, is southbound on 6th Street in Milwaukee on October 10, 1948, passing by the North Shore Line Terminal.
Chicago Aurora and Elgin cars 413 and 453 are looping at the DesPlaines Avenue Terminal, sometime between 1953 and 1957. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
An Electroliner leaves the North Shore Line’s Edison Court station in Waukegan, probably in the late 1950s. (A. C. Kalmbach Photo)
Here is how the abandoned Chicago Aurora and Elgin Terminal looked like in Aurora in March 1974, fifteen years after the interurban was abandoned. It has since been removed.
North Shore Line line car 606 is at Orchard and 5th in Milwaukee on October 20, 1951.
The Metropolitan West Side Elevated’s Logan Square Terminal, as it appeared in the early 1900s. This station was open from 1895 until 1970, when it was replaced by a subway station. From a C. R. Childs real photo postcard.
Capital Transit (Washington D.C.) ordered 25 pre-PCC cars in 1935. Here is how cars 1002, 1010, 1006, 1009, and 1004 looked on May 13, 1958. By then, they were presumably in dead storage. Only car 1053 from this series was still in service by the time buses replaced streetcars in 1962. This image was shot on type 828 film, with an image size slightly larger than 35mm.
The view looking east from Narragansett Avenue along 63rd Place on May 19, 1953. This was around the time that buses replaced streetcars on the CTA 63rd Street route, which ran here. The buses ran on 63rd Street west of Central Avenue. 63rd Place became a street after streetcars were abandoned, and there is now a fully developed residential neighborhood (known as Clearing) here. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA streetcar 6209 crosses the Nickel Plate railroad at 94th and Dorchester on July 2, 1949, operating on the 93-95 line. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Our resident South Side expert M.E. writes: “Your caption says the streetcar is crossing the Nickel Plate railroad. I had always thought these railroad tracks belonged to the Chicago and Western Indiana, which was basically a commuter line to towns near the Illinois / Indiana border. Fortunately I have a copy of the 1975 issue of “Train Watchers Guide to Chicago”, by John Szwajkart. That book came with a terrific map of Chicago-area railroads and their owners. Right near the junction in your picture, the map lists the track thus: “C&WI (NKP)”. So the C&WI owned it and the NKP used it. Also: Note in the picture there are two crewmen. Before the streetcar could cross the railroad track, the conductor had to get off the streetcar, walk to the railroad track, look both ways, and only then signal the streetcar to proceed across the tracks. So the motorman picked up the conductor right next to the track, and the conductor kept the motorman company for this short segment. Several streetcar lines that ran east/west on the far south side required two crewmen because those streetcars crossed railroad tracks at grade. Also: Note all the arms in the side windows. This route was busy because the eastern terminal was near the big steel mills in South Chicago. All those arms tell me it was time for a shift change.”
The view looking east along 63rd Street from Prairie Avenue on June 18, 1953. This is where the Jackson Park branch of the “L” turned east. The tracks at right ramped down to ground level and the 63rd Street Lower Yard. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Northbound CTA pre-war PCC streetcar 4015 crosses the Garfield Park “L” temporary tracks at Western And Van Buren on August 4, 1955. Streetcars last ran on Western Avenue in June 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Photographer William C. Hoffman described this as a segment of old Chicago Surface Lines track in Exchange Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard in East Chicago, Indiana on May 30, 1956. Streetcars last ran here in 1940. Andre Kristopans: “Indianapolis & Exchange “y” was (at the) south end of Whiting line.”
The late William C. Hoffman took pictures that no one else bothered to take. Here, he captured a danger sign at the northwest corner of Madison and Dearborn on June 6, 1954, warning motorists not to park where their cars would not clear turning Madison and Milwaukee streetcars.
On November 11, 1956, CTA red Pullman car 225 is in 81st Street at Emerald Avenue, on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip. This car was soon purchased by the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, where it remains today in much the same condition as when it last ran in Chicago. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA “L” cars 4375 and 4376 are in the State Street Subway at Jackson Boulevard on an October 26, 1969 fantrip. (Ray DeGroote Photo)
One of the original CTA entrances to the Dearborn Street Subway at Quincy on May 28, 1961. I assume the building at left is the old post office. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Chris Cole writes: “The Dearborn Subway entrance was on the west side of Dearborn between Adams and Jackson. The building on the left is the old federal courthouse. The Fair Store was at the NE Corner of Adams and Dearborn. They were later replaced by Montgomery Wards who re-skinned the building to make it look “modern”.”
This appears to be Post Street in San Francisco, circa 1915. Taken from a real photo postcard.
A southbound Lake-Dan Ryan “L” train negotiate the curve at Wabash and Harrison in November 1969. The new Dan Ryan line had only recently opened in September, and was joined up with the Lake Street “L”. It was eventually linked with the Howard line, which was a better match for ridership than Lake. The view looks north.
The new Kimball Subway opened on February 1, 1970, as an extension of the Logan Square “L”, and connected to tracks in the Kennedy Expressway median. This picture was taken at the Logan Square station on January 29, one day prior to the dedication ceremony.
West Penn Railways car 739 is on a fantrip at an unknown time. Interestingly, the car survives. After being used as a residence, after retirement in 1952, it ended up at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, where it is being restored. Larry Lovejoy adds: “The photo of West Penn Railways 739 is northbound at Mt. Pleasant, on Center Avenue, just about to cross West Main Street, the latter which is now Pennsylvania Route 31 but back then had a different highway number. The date is August 10, 1952 and this is an “after the last day” fantrip charter by the Pittsburgh Electric Railway Club. PERC was the direct corporate predecessor of Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. The car behind 739 is the 733. Sorry I can’t identify any of the recognizable faces.”
Milwaukee and Suburban Transport car 943 received a unique paint job as a “safety car,” and is shown on February 20, 1955 at the National Avenue station. Ironically, this car was later damaged in an accident.
North Shore Line loco 459 is northbound at Edison Court in Waukegan in May 1962. Also visible are a late 1950s Plymouth (left) and two Chevys. (E. R. Burke Photo) Fred Hilgenberg adds, “For dating verification purposes (and the photo caption appears accurate), the license plates on the cars are white lettering on red. Illinois used that scheme starting in 1961 (and I think 1962) as a nod to North Central College. It was changed to John Deere colors in 1963. The Plymouth appears to be a 1959 (possibly 1958). The two-tone Chevy is a 1956 Bel Air, the other Chevy is a 1961 Impala.”
North Shore Line Silverliner 776 was the final conventional coach ordered by the interurban in 1930. Merchandise Despatch car 232 is at right in this November 19, 1960 view at the Harrison Street Shops.
This picture, taken on January 2, 1961, gives an excellent overview of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal. The view looks south.
North Shore Line combine 250 has just left the Milwaukee Terminal in June 1962.
CTA “L” car number 1 in May 1963. Don’s rail Photos: “1 was built by Jackson & Sharpe in 1892 as South Side Rapid Transit Co 1 as a steam trailer. It was rebuilt as a MU motor car in 1898. It became Chicago Elevated Railway 1 in 1913 and became CRT 1 in 1924. It was preserved by CTA in 1947 and donated to Chicago History Museum in 2005.”
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company double-ended car 13 has just left the 69th Street Terminal and is signed for Westchester in this early 1950s view. The long Westchester line was replaced by buses in June 1954.
Three old Metropolitan “L” cars are at Indiana Avenue on September 2, 1955, and appear to be operating on the Stock Yards branch. Our resident South Side expert M.E. notes: “This time your caption is absolutely correct — this is the Stock Yards line’s terminal at Indiana Ave. on the southernmost platform. The other side of the platform was for southbound mainline trains to Jackson Park and Englewood.”
This picture was taken on a North Shore Line fantrip using the Electroliner, but the time and place are not evident. Nick Jenkins: “Photo of Electroliner (aae053) is on the interchange track with the Milwaukee Road at Racine.”
North Shore Line car 719 is part of a westbound two-car train on the Mundelein branch in November 1962. The Perpetual Adoration stop was an obvious fan favorite, as it expressed their thoughts about the legendary interurban.
North Shore Line caboose 1003 is part of a freight train at an unknown location.
North Shore Line caboose 1003 is at the back end of a freight train on the Skokie Valley Route in June 1962.
A two-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners is in North Chicago in January 1963.
Although there was never a chance that Chicago would be subjected to a Blitz during World War II, part of our war preparedness involved a practice blackout on August 12, 1942. Both “L” and interurban service was suspended for 30 minutes.
This rare poster (framed) recently sold for $338.34 on eBay. This was the CTA’s attempt to help riders get around after the North Shore Line abandonment. But there wasn’t much they really could do, since the NSL served many communities far beyond the reach of the CTA. In 1963, the CTA served Skokie with the #97 bus, but starting in April 1964, offered “L” service to Dempster Street via the new Skokie Swift (on the former NSL right-of-way).
This is the North Shore Line on February 6, 1949, and the photographer was Charles A. Brown. The Briergate station was built in 1926 on the new Skokie Valley Route, in a style generally referred to as “Insull Spanish.” There were nine such stations on the SVR and Briergate is the only one that still exists. There is a more recent picture of it in my new book The North Shore Line. Briergate station is in west Highland Park, IL and the car number is 157. (Courtesy of Larry Miller III)
North Shore Line electric loco 459 is an eastbound freight in Kenosha, Wisconsin on June 29, 1962.
The North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal as it appeared on June 29, 1962.
North Shore Line wooden coach 302. Don’s Rail Photos: “300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. In 1939 300 was turned over to the Central Electric Railfans Association as a private car. The ownership remained with the CNS&M, but the maintenance was taken over by CERA. During the war, with many members in service, CERA relinquished control, and the car was scrapped in 1947. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line wooden coach 140. Don’s Rail Photos: “138 thru 141 were built by American Car in 1910. They were rebuilt for Elevated compatibility in 1919. They were also leased to the CA&E in 1936, returned to the CNS&M in 1945, and sold to the CA&E in 1946.”
North Shore Line wooden coach 303. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line car 162. Don’s Rail Photos: “162 was built by Brill in 1915, (job) #19605. It was acquired by American Museum of Electricity in 1963 and resold to Connecticut Trolley Museum in 1971.” Car 162 is now at the East Troy Railroad Museum, where it is undergoing restoration. It is now the oldest surviving car in the fleet.
North Shore Line car 748 is part of a two-car train heading northbound at Adams and Wabash on September 4, 1961. The view looks south, and you can see CTA Tower 12 in the distance.
A North Shore Line Electroliner is at the Adams and Wabash station on the Loop “L” on September 4, 1961. The interurban had a station here that was connected directly to the “L”.
Here is North Shore Line Merchandise Despatch car 228 as it appeared on Sunday afternoon, August 9, 1953, at the Highwood Shops. It is now undergoing restoration at the East Troy Railroad Museum in Wisconsin. (Bob Selle Photo on Ansco 616 film)
North Shore Line car 730 at Edison Court in Waukegan. This must be right before the end, as this Kodachrome slide (by Walter Schopp) wasn’t processed until March 1963, two months after the abandonment. Looks like someone has already swiped the destination sign.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
The North Shore Line
Publication Date: February 20, 2023
FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now available. My publisher decided to expand it to 160 pages, instead of the usual 128. That’s a 25% increase, without any change to the $23.99 price. I am quite pleased with how this turned out.
From the back cover:
As late as 1963, it was possible to board high-speed electric trains on Chicago’s famous Loop “L” that ran 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, commonly known as the North Shore Line. It rose from humble origins in the 1890s as a local streetcar line in Waukegan to eventually become America’s fastest interurban under the visionary management of Midwest utilities tycoon Samuel Insull. The North Shore Line, under Insull, became a worthy competitor to the established steam railroads. Hobbled by the Great Depression, the road fought back in 1941 with two streamlined, air-conditioned, articulated trains called Electroliners, which included dining service. It regained its popularity during World War II, when gasoline and tires were rationed, but eventually, it fell victim to highways and the automobile. The North Shore Line had intercity rail, commuter rail, electric freight, city streetcars, and even buses. It has been gone for nearly 60 years, but it will always remain the Road of Service.
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus North Shore Line map. Books will ship by USPS Media Mail.
Chapters: 01. Beginnings 02. The Milwaukee Division 03. The Shore Line Route 04. The Skokie Valley Route 05. The Mundelein Branch 06. On the “L” 07. City Streetcars 08. Trolley Freight 09. The Long Goodbye 10. The Legacy
Title The North Shore Line
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2023
ISBN 1467108960, 978-1467108966
Length 160 pages
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
New Compact Disc, Now Available:
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
Until now, it seemed as though audio recordings of Chicago streetcars were practically non-existent. For whatever reason, the late William A. Steventon does not appear to have made any for his Railroad Record Club, even though he did make other recordings in the Chicago area in 1956.
Now, audio recordings of the last runs of Chicago streetcars have been found, in the collections of the late Jeffrey L. Wien (who was one of the riders on that last car). We do not know who made these recordings, but this must have been done using a portable reel-to-reel machine.
These important recordings will finally fill a gap in transit history. The last Chicago Transit Authority streetcar finished its run in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Now you can experience these events just as Chicagoans did.
As a bonus, we have included Keeping Pace, a 1939 Chicago Surface Lines employee training program. This was digitally transferred from an original 16” transcription disc. These recordings were unheard for 80 years.
Total time – 74:38
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